A “Core” Problem

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In my first week of classes during the fall semester of my junior year of college, I was told by two separate instructors within the School of Education that teaching is a form of brainwashing, and I should be careful with how I use this power.

There are teachers in the world who hope to do good, to mold young minds, and to impart positive values to the next generation. There are teachers in the world taking a viscerally practical approach: teaching students conflict-resolution skills, keeping up to date with the latest greatest technology, and calling on students to use logic when they write, solve problems, and go about daily life.

Then there are teachers who make no effort to hide their biases and who make no effort to show students both sides of the equation.

Forty-two states have adopted the Common Core State Standards Initiative while 8 have not. Those 8 states are responsible for adhering to their own statewide educational standard initiatives.  I don’t know what it is about Common Core, but it seems to breed anti-Israel lessons. One education professor has planned a Common Core approved conflict-resolution lesson for high school students which pushes students to empathize with Hamas (a U.S. government-designated terrorist group), establish a Palestinian state, and that encourages students to find a way to divide Jerusalem. As if this single workshop weren’t enough, educational materials intended to be used in classroom instruction adhering to Common Core standards ask students such questions as  “Was George Washington any different from Palestinian terrorists trying to protect their country?” and “If a Palestinian suicide bomber kills several dozen Israeli teenagers in a Jerusalem restaurant, is that an act of terrorism or wartime retaliation against Israeli government policies and army actions?” Not that every Common Core lesson breeds negativity towards the Jewish state or, by proxy, Jews, yet if these are the standards to which we are holding our students, we have reason to be concerned and we should expect more. The good news is, however, that with the passing of the “Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015” (ESSA), the federal government can no longer interfere with state-level educational standards or pressure states into adopting the Common Core standards.

And on top of all of this, the indoctrination or brainwashing of students which my own instructors warned me of continues through higher education.

We are fortunate enough to live in a country that cares deeply about the body of knowledge being imparted to students. This is why debates regarding what should be taught in schools persist nationwide, right? As such, the U.S. is blessed with the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) which is intended to bolster educational resources at American institutions of higher education and to provide financial assistance for students in need. As part of the strengthening of these resources, Title VI of the HEOA allows the Secretary of Education to fund foreign language and area studies (FLAS) and National Resource Centers (NRCs) on university and college campuses that will supposedly provide students with language expertise and knowledge useful to the government in terms of defending national security interests.

Under Title VI, NRCs are supposed to offer students multiple points of view regarding all sorts of international issues and must also provide teacher training and resources for K-12 teachers and instruction. Yet, these federal funds at many institutions are supporting professors like Juan Cole, defender of Iran and basher of both the US and Israel, and Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said’s protégé and professor of colonialist theory. Additionally, the resources published for teachers on many of these NRCs web pages barely mention Israel or Israelis and instead push for recognition of Palestine and Palestinian talents. As a passionate future educator, I am disheartened. I wish to enter a profession that intends the best for all students and teaches well-rounded global citizens rather than global citizens who have been led to favor one population and to abhor another.

Sarah Stern, the founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, often points to what children are being taught as a true hallmark of their society’s values. Children who are taught hatred will persist and be burdened with hatred; children who are taught peace will love and pursue peace. Perhaps some modern day educators the world over should take a step back to see the larger picture and the generation they are now molding.

Originally published at Times of Israel: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/a-core-problem/

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Hannah Iskow

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